L-R: Epipactis gigantea (Stream orchid), Boerhavia coccinea (Red boerhavia), Monoptilon bellioides (Desert stars), Funastrum cynanchoides var. hartwegii (Climbing milkweed), Pluchea sericea (Arrowweed)

California Plant Names:
Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations
An Annotated Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology
Compiled by Michael L. Charters

  • xalapen'sis: my original belief was that this was an alternate spelling of halapense or halapensis, meaning of or belonging to Aleppo in northern Syria, which didn't really make sense given that it's a native species, and David Hollombe corrected me with the following: "Veronica peregrina ssp. xalapensis was described from plants collected near Xalapa, Mexico."
  • Xanthis'ma: a Greek name meaning "that which is dyed yellow," in reference to the flowers. The genus Xanthisma was published by Augustin Pyramus de Candolle in 1836.
  • Xanth'ium: from the Greek word xanthos meaning "yellow." The genus Xanthium was published by in 1753. The plant has been used for making yellow dye.
  • xan'ti/xantia'na: named for János (John) Xántus (1825-1894), a Hungarian zoologist who collected in California
      and Baja. He was born Xántus János, in Csokonya, Somogy, Hungary. He was trained as a lawyer,
    served in the Hungarian Army, came to the United States in 1850, and worked as a druggist, bookseller and teacher, then joined the U.S. Army in 1855 serving as a hospital steward at Fort Riley, Kansas and Fort Tejon, California. In the Army he met Dr. William Alexander Hammond, a collector for the noted zoologist Spencer Fullerton Baird. Working under Hammond as an assistant surgeon, he developed an interest in natural history and became a gifted collector himself. In 1860
    he was stationed as a tidal observer for the U.S. Coast Survey at Cabo San Lucas, on the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, after which he was briefly appointed U.S. Consul at Manzanillo, Mexico where he collected natural history specimens for the United States National Museum, after which he was briefly appointed U.S. Consul at Manzanillo, Mexico, a position which he soon lost after embarrassing the Department of State by recognising a local rebelling warlord. He made extensive collections for the Smithsonian Institution, particularly of birds. For some reason for a period of time he affected the aristocratic title of De Vesey and signed his name as Louis de Vesey. He returned to Hungary in 1864 and remained there for the remainder of his life during which time he was Director of the Botanical Garden of Budapest and Curator of Ethnography at the Hungarian National Museum. Between 1869 and 1871 Xantus undertook another major expedition to East Asia, collecting in Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand, Borneo and Japan in order to gather artifacts for the museum. A large number of plants and animals now bear his name, including four plant species, two birds, three fish, a gecko and a crab, as well as the family Xantusiidae and the genus Xantusia of lizards. (Smithsonian Archives; Wikipedia; JSTOR)
  • xerophil'a: loving dryness.
  • Xerophyl'lum: from Greek xeros, "dry," and phyllon, "leaf," with dry leaves, alluding to the tough, persistent leaves. The genus Xerophyllum was published by André Michaux in 1803.
  • xerophy'ta: from the Greek xeros, "arid," and phytos, 'plant,' thus an aridity-tolerating plant. Some plants are poikilochlorophyllous which means that in dry conditions they lose chlorophyll and cease photosynthesis and transpiration, so they are ideally suited for dry conditions.
  • xer'os: dry.
  • Ximenes'ia: named for José Salvador Ximenes Peset (1713-1803), Spanish apothecary, botanist, and artist. I have found very little information about this man but my friend and colleague Hugh Clarke has provided this information: "[He] compiled a flora of Castellon de la Plana, in four volumes, in which he portrayed or described more than 700 plants, keeping a record of where they grew, when and whether they had any medicinal properties. He also recorded the butterflies and birds found in Castellon de la Plana on the east coast of Spain, about 71 km northeast of Valencia. When the author Antonio José Cavanilles met him, as recorded in his Observations on the natural history of the Kingdom of Valencia, he was astonished to find Ximénes had no botanical training or books, had not seen gardens, and was extremely poor with barely enough to eat. Ximenes is said to have had an interest in the characteristics of flowers and the form of the floret and had an interest in the question of 'sex' in flowers." The genus Ximenesia was published by Antonio José Cavanilles in 1793.
  • xiphio'ides: having the appearance of Xiphium, a Greek name for a Gladiolus, from xiphos, "sword," for the shape of the leaves.
  • xylocan'thus: woody-spined.
  • xylocar'pa: with woody fruits.
  • Xylococ'cus: from xylon, "wood," and kokkos, "a berry," from the stone of the fruit. The genus Xylococcus was published by Thomas Nuttall in 1843.
  • xylopo'da: from xylon, "wood," and pod, "foot."
  • Xylorhi'za: from the Greek xylon, "wood," and rhiza, "root," thus meaning "a woody root." The genus Xylorhiza was published by Thomas Nuttall in 1840.